You could technically class Mastersystem as a supergroup, made up of members from Frightened Rabbit, Editors and Minor Victories, they've combined their talents to unleash new album Dance Music, and it is brilliant. Ahead of their first live shows together, we caught up with vocalist Scott Hutchinson to talk about the new project.
Where did the initial ideas for Mastersystem come from? Who approached who?
It was Justin (Lockey, Editors) who started the conversation one afternoon before Frightened Rabbit opened for Editors in Berlin two summers ago. A lot of projects never really get past that stage after the parties involved realise that they're busy as f*ck, but sure enough Justin and James (the Lockey brothers) sent me some tracks a few months later and I loved them.
You’re all still very much focused on your other projects as well (Editors, Frightened Rabbit), so what made you decide to launch this new project now?
We didn't want to sit on a finished album for ages and we were all really excited about it, so it seemed right to just keep pushing and figure out a way to release the songs. I have to credit Justin with setting up the new label - Physical Education Records - so that the band and album had a home. Some things are better done quickly and that was the case with Dance Music right from the start. The recording process took very little time and we didn't want to be shopping it to labels for months whilst the album sat about and became stale. It was really refreshing to work in this way.
How does it differ to the other bands, have you approached the writing & recording process differently?
As I mentioned, this was far quicker than anything I've ever done with Frightened Rabbit. Those records take a year and a half to make these days and there's a much more studious approach. I know Justin has the same process in Editors. I didn't play any guitar on this; I just wrote and recorded the vocal parts so that was new for me. It was so great to just focus on the lyrics without having to worry about the details of the instrumental elements. I didn't overthink my parts on these songs, I followed a gut instinct and that's definitely something I'd like to inject into future Frightened Rabbit stuff.
How easy is it to separate writing for Mastersystem, to writing for your other projects?
I found it pretty easy, for my vocal elements the writing only took about a week or so in total, so it all focuses on a relatively short slice of my life, thematically speaking. I think you can hear what these songs have in common with one another, because I was in the same place mentally and emotionally for the majority of it. After it was all done, I just went back to writing with Frightened Rabbit. It certainly hasn't impeded our progress much.
Sonically, Mastersystem is pretty different to what fans may expect from you guys, what or who influenced you?
Speaking for myself I realised that using the exact same delivery on these tracks wasn't going to do it justice. I tried to inject a little more attitude than usual, put some swagger in my fecklessness so to speak. I was thinking of singers like Nick Cave, Iggy Pop and Simon Neil... proper mad rock stars. I know the Lockey brothers, (James & Justin) were heavily influenced by a lot of 90s grunge era bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer, but also UK stuff such as Idlewild and The Wedding Present. As for Grant (Hutchinson, Frightened Rabbit), he was able to let rip and be all his favourite rock drummers from bands like Placebo and Nirvana (can't remember their drummer's name).
Is there anything in particular that you wanted to explore with the lyrics for the album? Any themes that flow throughout?
This album is about taking teenage angst and updating it for my mid-30s problems. I had just finished a pretty long Frightened Rabbit tour when I wrote this stuff and I felt very directionless, worn down and a bit lost. Even when you're in a moderately successful band, there is still lot to complain about, ha!
You’ve got a UK tour coming up soon, are you nervous to put this new material out to people live?
I'm more excited than nervous. Although, memorising nine brand new songs and learning a whole batch of guitar parts is the main challenge. We'll be alright though, it's just four chords and the truth isn't it?
What are the goals with Mastersystem? Is this a project you want to keep working on for years to come?
I don't see why we shouldn't, given that it took very little time to put together. If Justin and James ever have another set of tunes ready for me & Grant then we'll be on board right away. It's just about fitting it into everyone's schedules really. I reckon I'll have a week to spare next Christmas, so keep yer ears peeled like a satsuma.
Competition: Want to get the full Mastersystem experience? You can catch them live in Birmingham at the end of the month, and luckily for you, we have 10 pairs of tickets to give away! Enter below.
O2 Institute Birmingham: Monday 30 April - Buy Tickets
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